Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

“Snatched” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

One of the main duties of fantasy is to give the audience something they’ve never seen before. This is easier said than done given the mind-numbing amount of sword clanking and spell conjuring seen in so many movies since the turn of the century. So I have to hand it to co-writer/director Guy Ritchie: The opening moments of “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” begin with colossal size elephants with glowing red-orange eyes—possessed by evil mage Mordred (Rob Knighton)—ransacking the fabled city of Camelot. Definitely a new one.

Camelot is getting decimated, but they have an ace up their sleeve. King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) wields the powerful sword Excalibur. After making is way on to the back of the gargantuan elephant that Mordred is riding—and being a total jerk to a perfectly innocent white horse in the process—Uther defeats Mordred and saves the last bastion of mortals from being overrun by mages.

The peace is short-lived, however. Uther’s underhanded brother Vortigern (Jude Law), who studied with the mages in his youth, seeks the throne. Vortigern betrays and kills Uther and Uther’s wife Igraine (Poppy Delevingne), leaving Uther’s two-year-old son Arthur (played by twins Zac and Oliver Barker) an orphan. The young boy floats aimlessly down river, concealed in a boat, until he’s discovered by brothel workers washing clothes in the city of Londinium. Now the legend begins.

How we get from Arthur at two to Arthur as a grown man and now played by the rugged and athletic Charlie Hunnam is via a hip, stylish montage. One of the ways in which “King Arthur” sets itself apart from other sword and spell fare is by employing the same fast-paced, quickly edited, skewed angle camera work for which Guy Ritchie is well known. It’s a style that works for the material because it’s never been done in this way before, and it takes some of the heaviness out of what is essentially a very somber story.

Consider also the dialogue, particularly between Arthur and his street rat friends Wet Stick (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and Back Lack (Neil Maskell). Rather than weighing the movie down in Olde English, the three friends spout off to each other in rat-a-tat fashion—something more akin to Tarantino than to Shakespeare. And it works. “King Arthur” has some of the breeziest, most entertaining dialogue exchanges I’ve heard in a while—Tarantino included.

If there is anything that misses the mark in “King Arthur” it’s the music, but not all of it. The pieces I did like were the woeful ballads, reminiscent of sad Irish folk songs. They were beautiful, and underscored the tragic elements of the movie quite well. I was less enthusiastic about the action scene music, with its incessant, headache-inducing drum beat and very fast, heavy breathing. I get that it’s supposed to simulate the rapid heartbeat and breathlessness one feels while running or performing a demanding physical activity. The purpose isn’t lost on me. But knowing the purpose doesn’t change the fact that I found it annoying.

No doubt many will draw the obvious parallels to the Biblical story of Moses—child found in a river, overthrowing an evil despot, rising up to become one of the greatest leaders of all time—and sure, it’s there. The movie also has creative fun with the legend of Excalibur, including the lady in the lake and the sword in the stone. One of the jaw-dropping joys of “King Arthur” is seeing how the sword came to be in the stone. That is a treat I will leave for you to discover. Buy it on Amazon: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2016) (BD) [Blu-ray].

Also New This Week


“Snatched” is one of those movies that starts off funny because the jokes are cleverly written, then progressively falls off the rails as the jokes stop and the humor becomes more physical and way, way less funny.

The good portion of the movie takes place in the United States. Down on her luck Emy Middleton (Amy Schumer) gets fired from her job and is dumped by her longtime boyfriend (Randall Park) all in the same day. Implying that a customer at the clothes store where she works might be a “white a**hole” will do that, but it is a funny line. As for the boyfriend, the blunt, straightforward reason he gives for the break up is a huge laugh, and it was refreshing to hear such honesty.

This leaves her with a problem: Who to take with her on a non-refundable trip for two to a resort in Ecuador. Like anyone in the modern era, she reaches out on social media. The screen fills with replies on why her friends can’t or won’t go with her, and I laughed again at the one in which the friend reminded her that she still has to pay back $300. Emy also tries calling some people to convince them to go with her, and again, I laughed when after a conversation starts going bad she says, “You jump to the C-word pretty fast.” It’s a funny line, well-delivered.

Emy journeys home to visit her mother (Goldie Hawn) and fully grown brother (Ike Barinholtz), who still lives at home. Emy’s relationship with her brother apparently hasn’t progressed since they were little children, since that’s how they act at the table eating lunch with each other while mom is in the next room. Later that evening, Emy finds some old photo albums of her mom’s past adventures and reminds her of the fun that she used to have. It helps convince her mom to go with her to Ecuador.

The mother-daughter dynamic is set up in the usual odd couple way. Emy is a hard drinking, out all night free spirit, whereas her mother is an overly cautious home body. It doesn’t take long for the two women to meet a handsome local named James (Tom Bateman), who tricks them into venturing outside of the safety of the resort’s walls. This is where the two get…well, snatched…and it’s also where the movie starts to fall apart.

I can even name the last good laugh in this movie. Shortly after they get kidnapped. Emy is on the floor of their cell unconscious while mom flips through a magazine to keep her cool. The magazine she flips through and what she says about it I will not reveal, but I laughed. Then I was done laughing.

After this point, “Snatched” delves into physical comedy, which it does much less well. While making their escape, Emy accidentally kills some people in some grisly ways, which aren’t darkly funny so much as they’re just plain dark. The two meet a guide (Christopher Meloni) whose fate becomes obvious the more we learn about him. The low point of this movie’s humor is during the tapeworm extraction scene. It’s gross and stupid, which would be okay if it were funny. It’s not—and I mean really not.

But even well before that sickening moment, “Snatched” loses traction and the laughs completely stop. The movie becomes one painfully unfunny physical comedy sequence after another, wasting the talents of otherwise great comedy performers like Wanda Sykes and Joanne Cusack in the process. There are breaks in the unfunny action as Emy’s brother back in the U.S. makes phone calls to federal agent Morgan Russell (Bashir Salahuddin) to get his sister rescued, but given the disdain with which writer Katie Dippold and director Jonathan Levine have for the character, those scenes are more awkward and pathetic than they are funny.

If only Dippold would have trusted her dialogue, “Snatched” could have been consistently funny throughout. Instead, it goes for horrific humor and gross out gags that belong in a different movie—or perhaps no movie. They really are that lame and that bad. This movie didn’t have to be that lame and bad though. Skip it.

More New Releases: “The Dinner,” about two sets of wealthy parents who come together to decide what to do about a crime their sons committed, starring Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, and Chloë Sevigny; and “Diary of a Wimpy Kind: The Long Haul,” about a road trip that goes askew for put upon Greg Heffley (Jason Drucker), also starring Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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